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The Diamonds, aka Tri-County Truck Stop

Tri-County Truck Stop, Villa Ridge, Missouri

When I was a little kid, the round-fronted facade of the Diamonds on Route 66 at Villa Ridge, Missouri intrigued me. When I decided to write a book on the architecture of the American roadside as built along U.S. Highway 66, the Diamonds, now the Tri-County Truck Stop, was the landmark that stood out in my mind. How grateful I was to find it still standing, as I drove 50 miles west of St. Louis to see if there were enough roadside buildings to even write a book on Route 66 architecture. That was 1980.

When I learned that that the Tri-County had an all-you-can eat Alaskan crab dinner every Friday night, I organized a group of friends to go. One brought along Susan Croce Kelly, who understood all my chatter about Route 66. Several, weeks later I invited her to work with me on a book on the old highway. Together, we produced Route 66: The Highway and its People from the University of Oklahoma Press. Susan wrote the text to the book, a text drawn from oral histories we did together, using the buildings to identify our informants. I would identify a building, we would go in and ask for the original owner. If it was not the person behind the counter, we learned we could find him or her some where nearby. We were careful to talk to people who had come to the roadside between 1926, when Congress passed the highway act that funded the federal highway system and 1956 when Congress passed the Interstate Highway Act that funded the roads that replace Route 66 and the other federal highways. These were the people who invented American roadside tourism. And, we were very lucky, because so many were still around to tell their stories.

Route 66 is the definitive book on the old highway, from its routing as the only diagonal federal highway to its replacement by the interstates.

The other day I drove past the Tri-County and found it shuttered, bordered up. New, fancier trucks stops have sprung up closer to the I-44-Missouri 100 interchange.

Below is the caption to the photograph at appears in Along Route 66, the book on the architecture from the University of Oklahoma Press.

The Diamonds, 1948-1973

Villa Ridge, Missouri

Spencer Groff housed the first Diamonds in a wooden building at the Y where U.S. 66 split from the Old State Road, picked up the Old Wire Road, and headed west. After it burned in 1948, he teamed up with Louis Eckelkamp to build a second Diamonds. While Eckelkamp lured families into the Gardenway Motel with a homey American Colonial architecture, Groff and Eckelkamp projected an aura efficiency to travelers and truckers with a Streamline Moderne architecture at the Diamonds. The great curved front of the beige brick restaurant overlooked the intersection of the Old State Road and the Old Wire Road. While families were welcome at the Diamonds, Groff and Eckelkamp isolated them from the truckers a separate dining room. They provided truckers with sleeping rooms and showers on the second floor. They directed civilians to the Gardenway

The Diamonds was one of the rare businesses to survive the coming of the interstates. When I-44 replaced 66 in 1973, Groff and Eckelkamp took their sign in the shape of a diamond, moved to the interchange at Gray Summit and built a motel and restaurant that catered to tourists. The Tri-County Truck Stop, which had lost its building to I-44 in Sullivan, twenty miles west of Villa Ridge, took over the building, and mounted a sign that stretched the length of the roof line.[Endnote #11] Photograph, 1980.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Being a Route 66 adventurer and a nearby resident of the original “The Diamonds Restaurant”, I have had plenty of opportunities to drive pas this monument. I’m very thankful it still stands, but sad that it sits boarded up.

    I feel that this location and building is a potential route 66 gold mine ready to be resurrected. People touring 66 flock to attractions in eastern Missouri like Ted Drewes, or the Chain of rocks bridge. In western Missouri you have the Gary Turner’s dedication to the Gay Parita station in Paris Springs. The 66 community needs another “must stop” in between. I feel The Diamonds is the place to do it. Easily visible from I44, large parking accommodations, a dining room equipped to feed large groups makes this a good spot for any kind of Route 66 museum, restaurant, or souvenir store.

    If I had the funding and the management skills I would love the opportunity to revive this old hot spot. I just hope somebody sees the potential for it and saves it before it fades away.

    • There are other places that have the potential to cash in folks who travel Route 66 for fun and want to stay in a real place, some place other than the local Best Western. The Munger Moss in Lebanon, Missouri is still in business.

      Then there is the Shamrock Motel and Cafe just west of Sullivan, Missouri. It is a classic Missouri rocked-building, constructed by a known stone mason. I wrote about it a year and a half ago at . There are other possibilities listed in that article.

    • I feel the same way Richard, I so hope that someone will purchase this building and restore it to it’s old glory. It is so sad to see it fade away and I agree it is still in a good location. I could see a combination of Route 66 Museum, café, Gift Shop, or perhaps an antique mall perhaps. If only I could win the lottery.

  2. In June 2012 the Diamonds will be in the Route 66 museum in Lebanon (1/100)

    http://route66art.blogspot.com/2012/01/scale-models-diamonds-restaurant.html

  3. Hi there! I remember eating breakfast there when I was little. It was a great place!

    I wanted to let you know that The Diamonds/Tri-County Truck Stop is home to a new business called The Diamond’s Trading Post. It is an auction house that will be opening in October, 2015 with the debut auction on October 2nd, 2015. You can get more details on their Facebook page if you are interested.

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